Farm Ireland

Sunday 17 December 2017

Text alerts do the job as tractor thefts drop

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Tractor theft in Ireland is on a downward trend this year, according to new figures from the Garda Siochana Stolen Motor Vehicles Investigation Unit.

Some 46 tractors have been stolen across the country so far this year, compared with 75 tractors last year and 107 tractors in 2009.

Improved recovery rates of stolen vehicles, extra vigilance and the publicity surrounding tractor theft have resulted in a decrease of tractor theft this year, according to Detective Sergeant Finbarr Garland from the stolen vehicles unit.

"At least one major Irish gang involved in tractor theft has been dismantled this year," said Detective Garland. "Some of those guys are in prison and will be for a long time.

"We are also rapidly closing in on another gang."

The majority of tractors stolen from Irish farms are taken at night from farmyards, sheds and fields close to the home, according to the Garda.

The tractors' identities are then changed and the machines shipped across to Britain in curtain-sided trailers.

Britain, Romania and Poland are the top destinations for tractors stolen here, with many of them being exported within 24 hours of being stolen.

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Speaking at a Macra-organised rural crime prevention seminar in Co Meath last night, Garda Crime Prevention Officer Sergeant Dean Kerrins said farmers were an easy target for crime.

"Farmers own a huge volume of property and there is easy access to premises," he said.

"Machinery, trailers, quads, tools and ride-on lawnmowers, as well as livestock, are the most common items stolen."

He urged farmers to engrave all their machines, equipment and tools with their first initial, surname and mobile phone number.

"Anything that is marked with your name and easily identified is less likely to be taken and more easily recovered," he said.

Gardai urged farmers and rural communities to set up local 'text alert' systems so that unusual occurrences and strange visitors to any area can be highlighted to everyone in the community.

The text alert system is already in use among community groups, according to Liam Kelly of Muintir na Tire.

Ballymacelligott Community Alert Group in Co Kerry has 170 participants in its text alert system, which also informs the local gardai in Tralee and Castleisland.

A brief text message listing the registration number, location, time and description of any suspect vehicles is sent around the group and to the gardai, and has resulted in a fall off in theft of diesel, heating oil and other items in the local area.

Organiser Fionnan Fitzgerald said at least 50pc of its participants were local farmers and most alerts came from farmers who noticed unusual happenings.

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